Sunday, 30 April 2017

I Am Your Father - Is TV storytelling too self-indulgent?

I am your father. Immortal words that have set the tone for TV and film ever since.

Recently, after the airing of the fourth series of Sherlock, Natalie and I had a debate about how small the narrative worlds of TV shows are. Basically characters all seem to know each other, are related to each other and often have special traits or experience that tend to 'fit' and prove useful to either the plot or the situation that the characters find themselves in. A prime example of this is Star Wars, which is essentially a space saga about a family dynasty that possess magical powers and a cosmic connection to the universe. The major players in the story arc all happen to be related to each other, most notably when the main villain of the story turns out to be the father of the main hero. What are the chances?! To a certain extent, script writers must do this so the audience can experience all aspects of a fictional world through the heroine or the hero. If the audience can see what the hero sees and feels what the hero feels then the story can be emotionally charged and easier to connect to and perhaps more entertaining. But does it mean self-indulgent storytelling? Can the end result be a ridiculous plot twist? A certain level of implausibility? Natalie expressed her feelings below: 

Hell yes. I’m getting a bit bored of it to be honest. This penchant for twisty, turny stories (where actually it was the father all along) and navel-gazing has taken away my enjoyment from some of my favourite shows. I don’t even think it’s a recent phenomenon. I think that when a show runs for too long, it’s easy for the writers to lose sight of what they set out to do in the first place and chuck in lazy twists. For me, all stories need to have is a plausible entry point. I’m not saying they need to be true to life at all. I just mean that there needs to be some reason to invest in taking the time to watch it.

So, starting with what I was raised with – The X Files. Mulder, a defiant believer, and Scully, a sceptical doctor, are in their own way maverick agents, investigating weekly paranormal cases outside the usual FBI channels. Each week they fight some paranormal threat, within the realm of possibility, in one way or another. Their chemistry is great to watch. Mulder is brilliant and eccentric. He is estranged from his divorced parents. His sister was possibly abducted by aliens – or not. Scully was a navy kid who travelled about the country wherever her father’s work took the family and never put down roots. Her relationship with her father is strained because she went a different way to the aspirations he had for her to be a doctor. Otherwise, she seems to have a pretty normal relationship with her family. I really love all the character development stuff.

Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man AKA Mulder's big bad biological daddy

On top of the weekly paranormal stories, a story arc eventually developed. To a certain extent, I liked the idea that there was a conspiracy in the background. Later we find out that Mulder’s dad (not his real dad and actually a shadowy conspirator within the government) made a deal with Mulder’s biological dad that Mulder’s sister would get abducted instead of Mulder because he was the favourite child. So the sister’s abduction was actually a conspiracy of men. Scully gets abducted too, and is returned with alien DNA and an implant inside her. Or was it aliens? Eventually we find out it may have been men. Men working with aliens that make her infertile. She has the implant removed and gets cancer. Then she puts another implant in and gets better. Is the impossible baby she gives birth to later in the series, an alien baby? We never actually see her have sex with Mulder (it is only suggested), so maybe it was. Mulder never actually finds his sister, instead discovering that she was probably taken mid-way her abduction by some spirits to protect her from the suffering she was about to experience and actually now she is dead. Mulder gets abducted too eventually. Then he dies. Then he wakes up again from the dead and has special alien skills. Are you following? Or have all the plot twists made your head spin?

Alias is another good example of a good idea turning ridiculous. The point, as far as I could tell, was for us (girls particularly) to imagine ourselves to be as good as guys at being clever and kick ass. Sydney Bristow is recruited out of college by a secret organisation to run exciting spy missions all over the world (while wearing cool outfits). Alias was good, inane fun for a while until SD6 (the spy organisation Sydney works for) turned out to be black ops within black ops that wasn’t really the CIA in the first place and Sydney’s dad turns out to be an experienced senior spy, her mother was a member of the KGB and was bad but good but bad and so was  Sydney's lover Vaughan and so on until all plausibility within the Alias fictional universe when out the window. What the hell?

Spies in grey suits

Recently I’ve been watching Scandal for the first time. It started out as a fun romp with another kick ass woman, Olivia Pope (a lawyer, campaign manager and general all round fixer), calling the shots and fixing the scandals of high profile Beltway people on a weekly basis, with an implausible but always slightly possible romance between her and the President of the United States in the background. Five seasons later and pretty much each one of the ensemble cast has murdered at least one other person (minimum). Oh yeah – and did I mention there’s a secret black ops organisation involved? And Olivia’s dad runs it? Again, what the hell? That entry point for the audience, that fine line where you can just about believe what’s going on even though you know it’s impossible is smashed to smithereens.

Olivia Pope is unimpressed with the latest plot twist

Global warming led to 221B Baker Street flooding....
Sherlock is a bit different. I feel it was still in its infancy when Moffat and Gatiss (who I admire and respect) jumped the gun and decided to delve into Sherlock and Watson’s psyche’s a little too early. There were still so many more straight-up mysteries they could have told before starting in on the central characters. By all means explore the main character's personal lives, but just do a bit more groundwork first, I say. I was cringing during that wedding episode when John married his girlfriend Mary (who is..yes! You guess it! A super spy!). Don’t get me wrong – I adore Holmes and Watson and their banter and tensions and wonderful complexities of character but when you pile it on thick (one for the fans!) and make it the focus instead of sprinkling it over a good story you risk killing it completely. You can have too much of a good thing. I love it when Holmes and Watson are tested but in the last episode of this latest season it was just way too much, so much in fact, that the leaps of logic were absolutely ludicrous. How the hell did Holmes and Watson steal that boat out in the middle of the sea? What are the chances that Sherlock had a secret murderous sister he had forgotten about? A good enough story will, by default, tease out the characters. But I guess Sherlock was never a show about subtlety – even the music is melodramatic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Holmes Senior turns out to be a high ranking spy… Oh no, wait – that’s his brother, Mycroft.
The upshot? Quit while you’re ahead people.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted.....

Poster from the excellent X Files Poster project (
And so it begins! The first instalment of the story of The X Files and our two heroes, Mulder and Scully, who for this episode I have dubbed 'Baby FBI Agents,' mostly because David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look so young, you could assume they have only just graduated High School. This is my first review of this series, so I may be a little rusty and disjointed but bear with me, they can only get better as I go on!

The X Files pilot first aired on 10th September 1993 and was written by series creator Chris Carter, and directed by Robert Mandel. A short synopsis of the episode is as follows: Sceptical FBI Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully is assigned by Division Chief Scott Blevins to work with the "believer" Special Agent Fox William Mulder, who works on a series of unexplained cases called 'The X Files.' Their first case together takes them to Bellefleur, Oregon; where the fourth member of the local High School's class of '89 has been found dead...with two mysterious pink marks on her back, same as all the other victims.

Let me start by saying Pilot episodes are the strange beasts of TV series. Characters are sketchily painted by the script writers in pilots, they often act out of character, overly emotional or irrationally antagonistic. Plots are introduced in pilot episodes that never appear again in later episodes and characters that at first appear important are subsequently dropped when they fail to appeal to audiences. Watch the pilot episode of most any successful TV show (Breaking Bad, The Wire and The Sopranos being exceptions to the rule) and you will find yourself wondering if you are watching the same show that exists in later episodes (and sometimes cringing). So it is a credit to the writers of the X Files that this first episode is pretty much on point with the rest of the series. Mulder is a little bit overly wacky but I think that is because David Duchovny had not got to grips with portraying the character yet. Both actors (DD and GA) look and act very young. Scully seems a little more mature (she is a ‘Medical Doctor’ after all) but their voices are unnaturally high at times, which makes them both seem a little hilarious and inexperienced and adds further to the charm of re-watching the pilot more than 20 years after it was first aired.

The pilot was shot in Vancouver which makes an excellent set for the X Files with its misty weather, rain, thick forests and bleak landscapes. This our first introduction into the Canadian woods that will become extremely familiar to the viewer as the series progresses. It is also our first introduction to the traditional TV teaser; the first few minutes of the episode that sets up the mystery. In the pilot it is a scene in which a girl has a paranormal experience and is actually very sinister with its hollow swirling noise effects and lots of dark shadows. It looks a little like shaky camcorder footage that is often used as evidence of supposed paranormal activity. I also noticed some similarities to other shows that I did originally pick up on when I first watched the pilot in my mid-teens. The episode contains more than a few similarities to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as a group of former alien abductees are all drawn and compelled to a particular location. Dana Scully bears more than a passing resemblance to FBI Agent Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs and even has the same auburn hair colour as Clarice.

The Themes

An interesting aspect of this first episode is how much of the themes of the original series were written in to the programme from day one: banter between Mulder and Scully despite their different belief systems, extra-terrestrials, Mulder’s sister’s abduction and the government’s attempts to hide information from the public and discredit Mulder and his work.

Almost right away we get to see the theme that I like to call: The Unnerving Familiarity Effect. Yes I have completely and utterly made up this term simply because I could not find my Thesaurus on my bookshelf. In my mind, The Unnerving Familiarity Effect is when The X Files takes something we consider comfortable and familiar (such as white picket fences, suburban houses, supermarkets, doctors’ surgeries, playgrounds, small towns, nature etc) and twists it around to make the familiar threatening and scary. The show turns the ideas of family, safety, medicine, home and other such themes on their head and makes them insidious and creepy. The places we would never consider a threat now contain them. In this episode it is the small town and the quiet woods that become threatening and dark places. One character even has a nosebleed in an innocuous-looking American diner.

The X Files is well known for being one of the first major prime time TV shows to try to incorporate serialisation. This means that it was often trying to tell a long-form story (or story arc as it can be known) over a series of episodes and even seasons. Sometimes it succeeds, other times it doesn’t (we will hear more about this later as we progress through series 1). But the fact that the show tries to embrace the idea of longer storylines and serialisation in an era before online streaming or wide-spread cable TV is something that the producers and scriptwriters should be proud of and is one of the things that attracted the large fan base that still faithfully follow the show to this day.

It may not be a ‘theme’ as such, but right in the first episode you can feel the 90s pop culture and the beginnings of the technological revolution seeping through the scenes. I once read on the Internet that The X Files ‘seems to slot almost perfectly between the end of the Cold War and the start of The War on Terror.’ In the pilot, but especially in the rest of series 1, there are echoes of paranoia, distrust of the government and the theme of a post-Watergate mythology. The government is lying to the American public and the truth is constantly being buried and censored like it often is during wartime.

Watching the pilot episode now is like opening a time capsule. The use of old desk phones, Mulder looking something up in a book, the old fashioned car phones and brick-sized mobiles transport the audience back to a time that feels distant but was actually not that long ago. I felt especially nostalgic watching Mulder do a slide show with an overhead projector. I remember doing shadow puppets with my hands and an overhead projector at School. Sigh….

You are going to regret asking this...

So many theories in will be hearing them for the next 9 years...
The X Files is a very serious show. It has its comical episodes but it is really a very earnest attempt to address some of the wider philosophical questions that we as humans have about the world and our existence. Sometimes the show takes itself too seriously and can become a bit pretentious and ridiculous but seriousness in television drama is not always a bad thing. As stated in an online comment that I read in a forum (from a commentator whose name I do not know, so I apologise for not citing the individual who wrote this):

‘The X-Files is really Chris Carter's response to a culture of scepticism. And yet, more interesting than that, it encourages scepticism at the same time. I don't doubt that there are other Sci-Fi / Fantasy shows out there that are more thoroughly conceived, but I've never seen another show that has such profound philosophical underpinnings. Often executed haphazardly, but sometimes executed brilliantly. And yes, it does take itself too seriously, but ... not always, as others have pointed out, and even when it does take itself too seriously, I don't necessarily consider that a flaw. I wish more popular culture erred on the side of seriousness, as opposed to the side of low expectations.’

I agree with this statement completely. The lengthy story-telling, the serialisation format, the serious examination of philosophical ideas, the slower pace and the long burning romance are all what make the X Files a truly fantastic televisual journey. With our fast-paced entertainment today, our quick and instant technology and our short attention spans, I can’t help but think that this might have been the type of show that would have been cancelled by studio executives within weeks of airing in today’s TV landscape. A sad thought when you think about how hugely popular The X Files was about to become over the next 9 years.

Oh hey! My name's Fox Mulder and I am about to change your life with all sorts of Spooky shit...
Well hello, my name is Dana Scully and I am about to rock your world with Science...
The Characters

The over-sized 90s suit brigade....

Let me say it right now. I have always been more of a Mulder fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scully. When I was a teenager, she was (apart from a few characters from Star Trek and Babylon 5) my ultimate role model. She was smart and brave and she saved Mulder multiple times. She was also not afraid to show how smart she was. As a teenager I always felt being smart (or geeky) was something to hide because being clever or interested or curious was not being a cool indifferent teenager, which so many of peers seemed to be. Scully was never indifferent. She was wholly committed to making a difference and that appealed to me. But I have always preferred Mulder. Why? I think his enthusiasm for finding the truth, his manic quest, his sense of humour, his love for Scully and his stubbornness in the face of adversity made me love him from the outset (his good looks didn’t hurt either). 
So what do we gain about Mulder from the pilot and the start of series 1?

I'm a 'fox' in these wire-rimmed glasses...

He likes slideshows. I mean, who doesn’t?! We will see a fair amount of Mulder’s slideshows over the next few years.

Mulder is often overly emotional. He veers between being deadpan to being emotionally intense for much of the first series.

Thank god for ALIENS!

The pilot episode has a sort of hysterical tone to it. Mulder does a lot of shouting. His excitement during the autopsy scene is extreme. He is similarly overexcited when the agents lose time in their car due to a UFO encounter. This may be because DD was nervous acting in this role to begin with or that he needed to understand the character better as the show went on. But it also does make sense to have Mulder mellow as he gets older. Many people feel emotionally turbulent when they are young and settle more comfortably into their skin as they mature. This is Baby Mulder remember. He loses his gun a lot, pouts, shouts and gazes at Scully.

Is this an ALIEN? Sure looks like an ALIEN...

Mulder works beneath a sign reading "I Want To Believe." Because believing in the paranormal, gives everything he's been through up to this point in his life, (beginning with the unexplained abduction of his sister and his banishment to the basement at the FBI), some sort of meaning. And, in my opinion, that search for a higher meaning in the face of apparent meaninglessness (and random fate) is just as much as key to the show's success as the aliens and the ‘monster of the week’ episodes that come later. I believe that Mulder needs to believe in a conspiracy of humans or aliens rather than fate or divine intervention. I think he finds random acts of uncontrollable fate much more frightening than the idea of a shadowy government making those acts happen.

In the pilot episode, as in most episodes, Mulder makes some huge leaps in his theories. He plucks these leaps out of thin air and with literally no evidence. Get used to it, because this just the beginning of his bat-shit crazy ideas….
This is one of  the lines to look out for in the X Files Drinking Game
So now we come to Scully. Ah Scully. Lovely, short, rational, sceptical, science-obsessed Scully! When re-watching this pilot in later life (I am now older than Gillian Anderson was when she first starred in the pilot) I am struck by how I never noticed before how ambitious Scully is in the beginning.


She marches right in to the FBI headquarters, confident, ready, willing and able to forge a glittering career in law enforcement. If only she knew what working with Mulder was going to do to her career prospects. Poor Baby Scully...

I am also struck by how young she is in the pilot. Gillian Anderson has been quoted as saying:

“I was 24, and I lied, I told them I was 27. Scully had to be, a few times, she kind of had to be the boss in a few situations and tell people what to do. And I felt like I was like twelve, and I had this really kinda squeaky voice. And I was, you know, a professional FBI agent. And a medical doctor, for fuck’s sake! And I had to pretend like I knew my shit!

When I look at myself in, say, the pilot, I am so green. Simultaneous to [Scully] being so green. It’s a greenness that, ‘cause it’s so organic, you don’t necessarily—usually when people are playing green, they’re acting green and they do a good job at it, but this was literally like, “she doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing”. I mean, I’m a child! I’m a child in the pilot, pretending to be an adult. It’s so obvious.”

Baby Scully rocks 90s plaid fashion...
I actually think GA does not give herself enough credit. I think her acting is on point right from the first scene. She becomes Scully right away and portrays a very confident and intelligent young woman. Her acting is all the more impressive knowing now how nervous and inexperienced she was in the television industry. 

You can only impress me with Science

So what else did I notice about Baby Scully?

So what else did I notice about Baby ScullyThe first time she appears on screen Scully is in the most powerful power-suit I have ever seen. With shoulder pads! I have to say that I think the buttons are really badly placed in an awkward position on the front of her jacket. I don’t want to offend anyone but I feel as if America entered the 90s ten years after everyone else in the world when it came to fashion because Scully looks a lot more 80s than 90s in that huge outfit.When watching the pilot I felt that Scully, a woman in a man’s world at the FBI, makes an extra effort not to be intimidated or seem feminine when she travels down into the basement to meet Mulder for the first time. She acts like she is not impressed by Mulder but I think she is, as she shows off her scientific background and knowledge almost immediately. Remember Mulder is a brilliant profiler with years more field experience than herself and a widely known reputation at the FBI.

Although Scully may be bewildered by Mulder and even irritated by him, she is also intrigued by him and does exhibit concern for him even as early on as this very first episode.

I have always maintained that the real journey of the X Files is actually Scully’s journey. She is the straight man to Mulder’s crazy. She is the one we, as the audience, are supposed to identify with. Ironically Scully’s stake in the conspiracy grows over the 9 seasons as Mulder’s stake gets smaller. Remember in the beginning Scully does not have to do half of the stuff that she does for Mulder. She follows him again and again even when she has a choice not to. Unfortunately this does mean she ends up in a lot of trouble later on. I am not the only one with this theory, pop culture critic, Darren Mooney says, in his blog (

‘Over the course of the series, Scully makes the journey from sceptic to believer. She sees things that she can’t explain (even in this pilot episode) and struggles to reconcile them with her understanding of the scientific world. Mulder made that journey before the series began, as he confesses to Scully in the motel in this episode. Of course, both leads carry the show and drive the narrative at different points in the journey, but I think you can make a strong case that The X-Files is Scully’s story more than Mulder’s.

We walk into the FBI building with Scully (in the first episode). Despite some interesting character work during the show’s fourth and fifth seasons, Mulder’s faith never truly waivers. He might get a little disillusioned, but he ends the show believing pretty much what he believes when we first meet him in the basement in The Pilot. All that has really changed for Mulder as a character between The Pilot and The Truth is his degree of knowledge…

..Despite the popularity of Mulder as a character and the fact that Duchovny’s name comes higher on the credits – Dana Scully is the real protagonist of The X-Files. – She is the audience’s way of gaining entrance into this world.’

Nitpicks, Some notable mentions and Episode Gems

  • Distracting early nineties background music. It was not just a bad era for fashion. It was also a bad era for television scores...
  • This is the first time we see Mulder’s office and it is everything we know and love: clutter, slideshows, the famous ‘I Want To Believe’ poster and lots of and lots of photos of dead people pinned to the wall. No wonder Mulder doesn’t sleep well at night….
  • How did Mulder get a hold of Scully’s undergraduate thesis? I mean these are the days before widespread Internet, so he couldn’t just look it up online. And am I the only one who finds it a bit creepy and offensive of Mulder to read it and then mock her with it’s content?
  • Who is the man walking around holding a takeaway coffee in the basement corridor near Mulder’s office? Is he also another one of the FBI’s most unwanted agents who has an office down there? What does he investigate? 
  • A true gem of the episode is when Mulder sprays an X on the road with orange spray paint while Scully just stares at him in confusion. Poor Scully, she has no idea what she is getting herself into. This will not be the strangest thing he will ever do.
  • And then it is really quite exciting when Scully and Mulder experience the UFO /lost time and realise it is on the same spot where he drew the X on the road earlier!
Always carry spray paint. You never know when you might need to mark a spot with an 'X'

  • First Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) appearance…and he says nothing! Never has there been a more silent sinister smoking character on Television. He does not seem so frightening at first, but then you see him depositing evidence in a giant warehouse in the Pentagon and you know he is hiding all sorts of scary stuff in those vast shelves of boxes.
  • There is also a great scene where Scully holds out a handful of what looks like ash or soil and Mulder says; ‘What do you think it is?’ Scully replies, ‘I don’t know. It was all over the ground.’ This is scientific proof that Mulder and Scully cannot identify dirt. God help us all.
  • A true, in fact entire season 1, episode gem is when Mulder asks if Scully wants to go running with him. They both look like super cute high school students. A notable mention goes out to Scully’s 90s leggings and high-top trainers…
Wanna go for a run? Or make out?
I will never look this young...or this happy again...
I will totally end up in bed with you....someday...maybe in 7 years..
  • Mulder obviously is nonplussed when the plane he is in suddenly loses altitude. I admire his cool.
  • Mulder’s sunflower seed habit makes its first appearance!
  • We have our first case of Mulder and Scully venturing into a dark and dangerous area (that you could not pay me to enter) with flashlights. In this case the forest in Oregon. In later episodes they will seemingly enter any badly lit space just for fun….no sense of danger at all...

Another episode gem: Scully giggling in the rain in the graveyard.
  • Do Mulder and Scully actually solve the case or not? NOPE. Get used to it because they are going to not solve a lot of unsolved cases over the next 9 years… There will however be a lot of walking while talking, intense eye contact, hand holding and lack of personal space.
Walking, talking, investigating crimes, intense eye contact, lack of personal space...
  • Mulder stands by a burning hotel and does not seem afraid. Keep this in mind. He is not afraid of fire. This will become important later on in series 1.
  • It is a small point, but I love the intense look that Mulder gives Scully through a two-way mirror at the end of the episode. He looks both serious, paranoid and gorgeous all at once. No wonder she looks a little scared.
  • This is the first time you realise most of the X Files is filmed in the dark. Chris Carter forgot to pay the lighting department in 1993 and they punished him for it for the next 9 years...
Wait! Did the lighting department actually switch on some lights?!
  • First time we see the height difference between our two heroes. He's tall (tol) and she is small (smol) and they weirdly use it to their advantage in new and unusual ways...
Just going to leave this romantic quote here-
From As You Like It: 

What stature is she of?

Just as high as my heart
  • The biggest victim of the episode - I am going to say the whole graduating class of 1989 at the Bellefleur High School in Oregon. Those kids do not deserve to get abducted by aliens simply because they decided to drink beer in the woods one night. It is rather tragic how freaked out Peggy O’Dell gets when confronted with the idea of being subjected to medical tests and Karen Swenson, the girl who is found dead in the woods at the beginning of the episode, is a victim of terrible 90s fashion (her nightgown looks practically Victorian). It is a sad sad world when teenagers cannot binge drink safely in deserted woodland at night…..
  • Scully’s Scepticism Meter – It varies in the pilot from 10 (highly sceptical) on the Sceptic meter to around a 5 (less sceptical). She yo-yos back and forth, but hey she's new to all of this paranormal stuff.
  • The Shipper Stuff - you knew it was coming! The part of this incredibly long analysis where I finally get to the MSR (Mulder and Scully Romance) good stuff. Well here we go...Natalie (my fellow geek) thinks that there was romance or at least some sex between these two right from the beginning because they are so close and physical with each other almost from the get go. But I am not so sure. I think they are definitely attracted to each other and there is quite a bit of flirting early on (Scully smiles at Mulder a lot in Season 1) but they are virtual strangers to each other in this first episode and both are very concerned with solving the first few mysteries they investigate and learning to trust each other, so I don't think there is anything actually sexual taking place in the early days of their partnership.
  • Which brings me to the scene where Scully rushes semi-naked into Mulder’s hotel room after discovering two mysterious marks on her back. She disrobes in front of him and asks him to look at her naked lower back with only candlelight to light his way. Does the disrobing scene sexualise Scully? Many people have said so. Perhaps it does a little. Before she sees the marks and panics, there is a rather gratuitous shot of her butt and bra, but it is not especially sexy and it will be a long time in the show before we see Scully so unclothed again or portrayed as a sexual object. I think the scene is great, not for its shippiness or romantic quality but because it shows that Scully, the sceptic is starting to believe Mulder and trust him. Mulder who in later episodes proves to be a little kinky in his own way, is nothing but gentlemanly and really rather sweet towards her as she takes off her robe in front of him. This scene allows Mulder, who has been quite confrontational and condescending towards Scully to exhibit a softer side of his personality and to demonstrate that he might actually be able to bring himself to care about this new partner, even if she’s been foisted on him by those in authority. Remember Scully was sent to spy on him and debunk his work. This of course leads to the all-important scene in the hotel room in which Mulder and Scully have the most heart to heart conversation they will have for most of season 1. In this scene Mulder starts to trust Scully and she in turn, reassures him of her integrity. 

And right there is where the trust begins! There you have it! The start of a beautiful partnership!

Episode Quotes
(memorise them and quote them at family dinners, just to really freak everyone out)

Mulder: Sorry, nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted.
Scully: Agent Mulder? I'm Dana Scully. I've been assigned to work with you.
Mulder: Oh, isn't it nice to be suddenly so highly regarded. So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully?
Scully: Actually, I'm looking forward to working with you. I've heard a lot about you.
Mulder: Oh, really? I was under the impression that you were sent to spy on me.

Scully: What happened?
Mulder: We lost power. Brakes, steering, everything.
[checks watch]
Mulder: We lost nine minutes!
Scully: ...You're saying that time disappeared. Time can't just disappear. It's a universal invariant!
[car restarts itself]
Mulder: Not in this zip code!

Mulder: When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?
Scully: ...What I find fantastic is any notion that there are answers beyond the realm of science. The answers are there. You just have to know where to look.
Mulder: That's why they put the I in FBI.

Mulder: I was twelve when it happened. My sister was eight. She just disappeared out of her bed one night. Just gone. Vanished. No note, no phone calls, no evidence of anything.
Scully: You never found her?
Mulder: Tore the family apart. No one would talk about it. There were no facts to confront, nothing… to offer any hope.

Till next time fellow Geeks!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Mulder and Scully are Back!

It is here! The new trailer for the new series of The X Files (or Season 10 of the show if you are a long-time fan) has been released by Fox (sending X Philes crazy online). After reading some of the critics’ reviews of leaked footage earlier this year, I can't deny that I was a little worried about how it would look, but my fears have been abated. At least for the moment. Nat is still wildly distracted by Scully's hair, but since Gillian Anderson did not want to dye it yet again, we will have to settle for this strawberry blonde wig and as the episodes are rolled out I am sure we can get used to it.

Mulder and Scully are a lot older than the last time we saw them on screen, but I love the idea of them investigating cases when they are more mature. Personally, it bothers me that so many actors and actresses on TV now are so young. It is nice to see the whole age demographic of society represented on screen. Plus Mulder is shown kicking in a door, so you know that he still has energy for an exciting quest.

It does seem as if the conspiracy theme in the show has been updated for our modern times with images of surveillance, satellites and military drones. I did suspect Chris Carter was going to play with our paranoia of constantly being under surveillance (which lets be honest is less paranoia and actually closer to the truth nowadays).  I also think the 'colonisation' storyline (whether it be colonisation by aliens or some creepy covert government organisation seizing control) may still be told in the new series because some of the dialogue in this trailer sounds like it has been lifted directly from the X Files Fight the Future film. Remember the doomed paranoid Dr Kurtzweil? He explained to Mulder how the colonisation of the planet would begin: 'The timetable has been set. It'll happen on a holiday, when people are away from their homes.' The intro of this trailer sounds awfully similar in its predictions....

Other items to note:

It looks like Mulder is still living in the remote farmhouse we saw him holed up in at the end of the last movie (I Want To Believe)

Scully has a smartphone! With caller ID! Which means no more scripted lines of her saying 'Mulder, it’s Me.' Deep sad sigh..... (Also on a side note, all the new technology today might also be a hindrance as well as help to the scriptwriters of the new series. With an iPhone you can now just snap a quick photo of something paranormal and bam! You have the proof. No need to spend hours of TV searching for it)

Scully does not look happy at all to see Mulder in any of these short clips. In fact she looks pissed off for the entire trailer. I hope she at least has a little fun sometime during the new 6 episodes.

I love the shot of Mulder's empty old office with the pencils on the ceiling and the 'I Want To Believe' poster on the floor. But am I supposed to believe that no one in the FBI head office decided to take the pencils out of the ceiling in the last 13 years?

Skinner! Skinner with a beard! I love it! He should have grown facial hair earlier in the series!

Mulder is wearing a pretty snazzy suit, in fact both him and Scully are. Where would Mulder find the money for such an expense after not working for 13 years? Has been publishing criminal profiling articles anonymously online for money? Working freelance as an UFO spotter?

At the end of the video, there is an ominous and sinister hand holding a lit cigarette. Is this the return of Cigarette Smoking Man AKA the Darth Vader of the X Files? But with a wide spread smoking ban in effect in many parts of the USA, how will CGB Spender smoke?! Will he ‘vape’ instead?

Questions that remain unresolved (the Truth is Out There somewhere)..

A lot of the X Files mythology relies on the audience’s perceived mistrust of the government and the powers that control and run our world, but in recent years , people have grown to trust the government more than they did in the 1990s or at least care less about the invasion of their privacy. Or maybe they don’t but they trust other countries and groups like terrorists even less, so how will that be incorporated into the X Files?

What has happened to Mulder and Scully’s son, William? Will he feature at all in the new series and if so, will he be an Uber-teenager who will save the world?

What the heck is going on with Mulder and Scully’s relationship? I know that Chris Carter has stated that they are no longer together (sob) but how do two people who are so close and committed to each other, break up? If alien abduction and 9 years of paranormal investigation failed to separate them, what could they possibly argue about? And will they resolve their problems before the end of Series 10?  (if you want to hear more of my thoughts about this break up of two beloved fictional characters, you can read it here)

And last but not least how will the new series of the X Files compete with the competition on TV and through online streaming? It is less easy to scare people now, people are better informed, there is more information out on the web and TV shows are more violent and extreme. It remains to be seen how the new series will graduate to being more than just a 6 episode trip down the Cult TV memory lane.

Having said all of that, I am ridiculously excited after viewing this trailer and I cannot wait for January. Although in the UK, we are months behind the US, so I will be waiting even longer. Never mind, I have 201 episodes of the X Files to keep me busy before then!

Excited FBI Agents...

Bye for now!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Little Fan Art to Pass the Time...

There has been a small blogging hiatus at the moment because Nat is off scaling a mountain in Wales (she has an adventurous spirit!) and I have been busy writing, watching The X Files and making notes. So hopefully, we will be updating this blog very soon. But in the meantime, I leave you with a fantastic fan video celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the show (which took place on 10th September 2015). I am generally not a massive fan of fan-made videos of TV shows, partly because I would rather watch the show itself and I sometimes find fan videos a little overly sentimental or corny. But this video is so expertly put together and so completely encompasses the feel and themes of the X Files, that I had to share it. I can only assume that Katrin, the creator of this video, has some sort of background knowledge in video editing because it is a very professional end product. 

Please be aware if you have never seen the X Files, that this video contains spoilers. If you have never seen the show, in god's name, why?! And go watch it immediately! 

Over and Out!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Welcome to the Madness...

Madness is always more fun when shared...


Endearing or just plain weird?
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to share everything with the one you love. No matter how much you try to lecture them, cajole them or not-so-subtly leave books lying around the house open at the right page for them to trip over and read by accident, it just doesn’t work. If they’re not into it, they’re just not into it.

So who can you turn to?
I was at a party recently where someone said: ‘A good friend will say to you just before you go into an exam, "good luck, I hope it all goes well.” Your best friend will say "Hurry up and get it done so that we can go and get stoned."' While I am neither a student (too long ago), nor do I make it a habit to get stoned (too square), I do agree that your best friend will often drag you into doing things that may not necessarily be good for you - but might be excessively fun.

Why ‘folie à deux’?
'Folie à deux’ is French for a type of madness or delusion shared by two. There are two reasons for making this the name of our blog.

Firstly, being a teenager is no easy job. We’ve all been through it – the overnight hair growing in weird places, the hormones making you feel extra mad, extra horny or extra everything, the boys (or girls) not noticing you, the awkward moment where you don’t get picked for the team. Life is cruel when you’re fourteen. So some of us took refuge in places other than the real world. Whether that was hero-worshipping bands, or sportspeople or actors, we all found someone or something on which to misplace our overflowing passions, to become obsessed with to the point of delusion. Many years (and broken hearts) later, Clara and I managed to bump into each other at university – and guess what? We discovered we weren’t crazy and actually out there the whole time there had been someone else who was equally obsessed with Star Trek/Doctor Who/Battlestar Galactica/Jane Austen (delete as applicable to you - we love ‘em all!)

The second reason that this blog is called folie à deux is because Clara and I both share one big obsession that gave rise to them all The X Files. If you’re an X-phile you’ll already know that our blog title is also the title of S.5 ep.19. In the episode, Mulder may or may not be sharing visions of a killer insect that hides in plain sight, with a call centre worker who is driven crazy and pulls a gun on his colleagues.

The X Files...But that’s so nineties!

Yep, we heard you – it’s a bit retro to like The X Files. Watching the pilot episode that was filmed in 1992 is a bit like being smacked over the head by a hangover from the eighties. There’s a still a trace of big hair, shoulder pads, cheesy synthesised music (sorry Mark Snow, but I guess locking you in a broom cupboard with a mini-keyboard and no food until you could come up with something paid off in the end) not to mention that the aspect ratio of those early episodes doesn’t fill our mighty big flatscreen TVs these days.

So why are you bothering to watch it again?

Aha! But we’re not re-watching it. While we are definitely getting high on the nostalgia of revisiting the series, there are plenty of ways of watching it anew, now that our brains aren’t addled by excessive hormones. Here are five reasons why it’s worth it:

1. We’re talking internet fandom genesis here. Before the early nineties, no one had communities in which to share their ideas or just connect with one another. There was no incubator for fans to nurture their obsessions, to chat, share fanfic or swap nitpickings. However, the burgeoning of a little thing called the internet fanned the flames. With home PCs becoming an everyday reality, internet chatrooms and message boards sprang up and the X Files became one of the first shows to gain a cult following in this way. Even we poor mugs in the UK who only got to see everything after the event managed to at least keep abreast of developments by chatting to our Stateside brethren.

2. Scully is one of the best-drawn, independent female characters on television. Dana Scully had her own narrative. She had her own belief system and issues that didn’t always involve her male counterpart, which was unusual for primetime television shows back then. Not to mention her kick-ass scientist braininess (way ahead of you Walter White*) and a tenacity in her pursuit of the truth that was equal to Mulder’s. Even her looks caused a disagreement between Chris Carter and the studio execs – they wanted someone leggier and blond. OK, so she did spend a fair amount of time getting hit over the head and just missing out on paranormal phenomena. But while there are plenty of other female characters of note – Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), Sydney Bristow (Alias), Olivia Dunham (Fringe) to name a few - if Scully hadn’t blazed a trail, these others wouldn’t have had a path to follow.

*Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad sharpened his pencils writing on the X Files first)

3. The show was flipping scary. Hats off to the directors for daring to film 75% of the show in semi-darkness. Taking its cue from Twin Peaks, there was no show on television at that time that had such a creepy atmosphere, so much so that some of my friends were actually banned by their parents from watching it. Some of the most memorable episodes gave us iconic ‘frights of the week’. Who can forget Tooms stretching impossibly down the tiny aperture of that chimney or the giant flukeworm?

4. The writers knew how to play on said fears. The nineties was a time of uncertainty. We were on the cusp of becoming truly global. Post-Cold War, our economies were becoming more and more closely intertwined. The World Wide Web was in our own homes and technology was leaping ahead, sometimes out of our own control and understanding, a theme that comes up time and again in The X Files. The government’s capability to listen and watch was greater than ever and the writers played on this paranoia as much as possible, evoking the Nixon era with shady government informants and shadowy figures that hung around in the background smoking or in underground car parks. Of course this all seems terribly pertinent now in a post-Snowden era, yet we weren’t quite there yet – Mulder and Scully both still visit the library and look things up phonebooks (Oh em gee a library! Ha, you actually had to use an index? What’s that?!)

5. It had the most excruciatingly slow-burning love story in TV history. If you threw your television out of the window when Mulder and Scully became an item, then you should probably leave this blog now. We are unashamed 'shippers and along with the rest of them we were cackling and hugging ourselves with glee, while rocking back and forth and rewinding every moment our two heroes brushed against each other or exchanged a tender stare over a decomposing body. That aside, come on people. They blatantly wanted to jump each other from day one. We don't know about you but we haven't seen the like of the chemistry between Anderson and Duchovny on the small screen since.

Oh yes – and the new series is coming out soon isn’t it?

You betcha! So kick back and let us take you on a hopefully not too confusing story arc of a journey from conception through to new series and hopefully we can share our ‘folie’ with you too!

Much Geek Love to you all,
Nat and Clara x